Earlier today, I was playing Outriders. I was in the middle of a mission, about to beat a tough enemy, when I was disconnected from the servers. An error message popped up and that was that. But I was playing alone, in an area only filled with NPCs in a game with no PVP. So why did I even need to be online?
So far I’m digging my time with Outriders. The guns feel chunky, the combat is smooth and the co-op (when it works) is a blast. But over the last few days, Outriders has had server issues. This isn’t a shock. Most online games launch with server issues and regular downtime. What’s odd is that Outriders doesn’t seem like it needs to be online. I’m not a developer working on the game, so I can’t explain the specific technical reasons that necessitate an always-online connection. According to the devs, it’s because the game has “a lot of things happening in the backend.”But as a person playing the game, I see no benefit to forcing solo players to connect to shaky servers.
Before Outriders launched, developers People Can Fly explained that this wasn’t another live service game. That it was a complete package. While they had some plans for potential future content, for now, this was the game. Later, while players were enjoying the demo last month, the devs explained that cheaters wouldn’t be banned. They would be marked as cheaters and would be unable to matchmake with legit players, but their cheating ways wouldn’t get them removed. I saw some folks confused about this choice. But it makes sense to me. Outriders isn’t a PVP game. There isn’t some competitive balance you can destroy by hacking in powerful guns. Likewise, Outriders doesn’t have microtransactions or even a battle pass that could be circumvented with mods or nasty cheats. So cheating or hacking the game really only affects you and anyone you play with in co-op. On top of all this, you can play Outriders from start to finish solo.
So why is this game always online? I can’t give you a good answer for that beyond what the devs explained and the connection to servers being a useful bit of DRM. Still, I don’t see the benefit of tying a game like this into servers so much that it all falls apart the moment they fail. At this point, it seems unlikely that Outriders will get an offline mode, even if it would be a great feature for solo players. These types of things aren’t easy to just add in after the fact.
That’s a shame because an offline mode would be a great addition and not just so folks could play the game they bought during launch week.
There are other, more worrying problems that come about when games, like Outriders, force an always-online connection. It brings about a lot more harassment from players. And this harassment will end up targeting individual public-facing devs and community managers who don’t have any power or control over the situation. Each time the servers collapse, these folks will face the brunt of an angry mob of assholes and trolls. An offline mode would at least give these players an option during downtime and would probably spare a lot of shit being tossed at overworked devs. (Though this being the internet, it won’t ever get rid of all the assholes…)
There’s also the problem of what happens if in a few years if Outriders stops being a priority for its developer or publisher Square Enix. If the servers get shut down, this game in its current state would be unplayable. Pirates and modders might be able to salvage things and get the game running offline, but that would be unnecessary if there was a way to simply play this game without an internet connection. That missing offline mode would also help make it easier for folks to play on limited connections or in areas where the internet is unstable, shitty, or non-existent.
Building your game with an offline mode is basically a no-lose scenario, from what I can tell. And in a game with no PVP to balance or big social areas, unlike Destiny 2’s planets, an offline mode seems like a perfect solution to a bunch of problems.
I assume, as usual, greedy businessmen, a lack of resources, various contracts, and time restraints are a big reason why always online single-player games will continue to be a thing. This means that folks, both devs and players, will have to continue to deal with what happens when the servers inevitably stop working. And they always stop working.